Sad fatalities at Tamahere


Sad fatality at Tamahere, read the Waikato Times headline.

‘Camp’s Hotel destroyed by fire,’ recorded a second headline. ‘Two children burned to death,’ reported a third. The newspaper is dated Tuesday, March 17, 1885.

The news of 123 years ago shows, sadly, that firefighter Derek Lovell is not the first to die in a tragic fire at Tamahere. Senior station officer Lovell died on April 5 this year from injuries received in an explosion and fire at the Icepak Tamahere coolstores.

In 1885, shortly after midnight on Saturday, March 14, fire claimed two much younger lives – those of Albert Montagu Camp, 10, and his 3-year-old brother Edward Hewitt Camp, sons of hotel owner James Thomas Camp.

Two other sons in the family of nine children, Harry and Willie Camp, sustained severe injuries in escaping the fire in the family-owned Tamahere hotel, the paper reported.

“The former, after getting Willie out, returned to assist the others, but the fire had by that time gained such a hold on the building that he had to retreat, and in order to save himself it is supposed that he dropped from the parapet, thereby breaking his arm. Both boys are badly burnt, and for some time it was thought the injuries they had sustained would prove fatal, but they are now, we are pleased to state, under the skillful care of Dr. Cushny, doing well. General sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Camp in their sad bereavement, and this sympathy has already taken practical shape. The hotel, which was a comparatively new building, was insured in the Colonial Office for £1600, and the stock and furniture for £500. Nothing whatever was saved from the hotel, but some books etc (which Mr Camp has been selling on commission), were rescued from a room in the tailor’s shop. Mr Thompson’s store, which is situated about 20 yards from the hotel, had a narrow escape, the weather-boarding being scorched. Fortunately the wind was not blowing in that direction. Mr Thompson’s buggy-shed, which stood a little nearer to the hotel, was however destroyed, though the buggy was saved.”

The news of the fire was followed by a report on the inquest into the boys’ deaths. Labourer Bernard Ward came under suspicion but the jury returned with a verdict of accidental death.

The Waikato Times page of 1885 carrying the report can be viewed here (pdf)sad-fatality-at-tamahere-1885

An earlier Waikato Times, the paper of September 2, 1880, reported on Camp’s plans for the new hotel “at the junction of the main Hamilton-Cambridge road and Narrow’s road at Tamahere.” The junction is now the site of St Stephen’s church.

“The structure, while it will be devoid of elaborate ornamentation will present a very substantial appearance, and the internal arrangements will be admirably adapted for the purposes of a hotel,” the paper reported.

The main building, which consists of two storeys, is shown to have a frontage of 10 feet to the Narrows road, and 36 feet to the Cambridge road, with a height of 22 feet. The lower floor is divided into a commercial room, 15 x 13; bar, 18 x 14; dining-room, with folding-doors, 25 x 13; and two good-sized parlors. Tho main entrance is on the Cambridge road, and opens into a passage 6 feet wide, running the length of the building. The upper floor is divided into six apartments, comprising two large parlors, one 16 x 14 and the other 14 x 14, and seven bedrooms, with a passage 6 feet wide. All the rooms are well lighted, the windows being 6 feet 6 inches x 3 feet 9 inches, with two lights. The architect for the work is Mr Wrigley, of Auckland.

Historic newspapers can be viewed at the National Library of New Zealand papers past website.

One thought on “Sad fatalities at Tamahere

  • March 12, 2018 at 12:16 pm

    The hotel site must have been on the other corner of the intersection of the main road and the Narrows road rather than on the site of St Andrew’s church. There are newspaper reports about discussion of which of the two sites *adjacent to Mr Camp’s hotel* would be used for the church, and in fact on the day the church was consecrated, the bishop and other officials robed up at the hotel. Mr Camp was one of the people involved with fundraising for the church and its official opening.


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